PAWTUCKET, R.I. Right-hander Scott Atchison was a last-minute replacement for starter Alfredo Aceves in the Pawtucket Red Sox' season-opening game at McCoy Stadium Thursday night, and was more than up to the challenge.
Aceves was scratched moments before game time because he was being recalled to Boston as a replacement for the injured Matt Albers (strained lat muscle). In stepped Atchison, and the veteran reliever went 4 23 innings, allowing just three hits and one run with no walks and eight strikeouts. He left with the PawSox trailing, 1-0, and wasn't involved in the decision as Pawtucket rallied for a 2-1 victory over the Rochester Red Wings.
Outstanding job by Atchison . . . with the short notice and then giving us almost five innings like that, said first-year PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler. You just never know what youre going to get when a pitcher is pressed into service on short notice. But he did an outstanding job. He was very efficient, allowed us to extend him and win, lose, or draw in that game, we pitched very well.
Atchison threw 68 pitches, 49 for strikes.
We kind of had a pitch count in mind, Beyeler said. We were just going to kind of see what we could get. He was just being so efficient and getting some outs that we just kept going.
It was not an unfamiliar situation for Atchison. Last June 12 with the Red Sox he was called upon to replace Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was a game-time scratch. Atchison went three innings against the Phillies that day and the Red Sox went on to win the game. It was his only start of the season, in 54 combined appearances between Pawtucket and Boston.
Well, Ive been through it before, he said. To be honest, as a starter -- before, when I was doing it when I was younger -- I always thought about it all day long, and I probably drove myself crazy with that.
"Thursday there wasnt near as much time to think about it. Just go out and make your pitches. I tried to treat it as similar to a relief appearance as I can. Im not going to go throw 45 to 50 pitches in the pen, like some starters do before their start. I just kind of go with how I would warm up to come in in the middle of an inning and go with that from the first and give it everything I got till I run out of gas.
The PawSox went ahead in the sixth on Juan Carlos Linares double off the outfield wall, 400 feet away in straightaway center, scoring Lars Anderson and Drew Sutton.
Hes a dangerous hitter, said Beyeler, who also had Linares last season in Portland. Hes a guy thats going to swing the bat. Hes an aggressive hitter. He got into one there.
Rich Hill earned the win, going 2 13 scorelessinnings, giving up three hits with no walks and four strikeouts. HidekiOkajima followed Hill, going one scoreless inning with one strikeout.Michael Bowden earned the save with a perfect ninth inning.
Shortstop phenom Jose Iglesias had two of the PawSox' hits, both singles.
Iggy did a good job tonight jumping on some fastballs, getting some hits and getting on base, Beyeler said. Its always good for the young guys to get off and get some good hits to start with, put the ball in play and feel like they belong up here.
PawSox and Red Wings pitchers combined for 23 strikeouts, 13 and 10 respectively. It was the most strikeouts by Pawtucket pitching since recording the same number on May 5, 2009.
Reliever Jason Rice was one of the extra players who joined the Red Sox on their trip to Houston before the start of the season on Texas. It was a great experience to go out there, he said. I got to chat with Tim Wakefield near the bucket during BP. It was amazing. I never understood how it is to travel with the big-league club, but from the bus to the plane, to the snacks going up and down the aisle, it was awesome, it was a great experience. I hope there are many more to come."
Rice, who was acquired in the Triple-A phase of the 2008 Rule 5 draft from the White Sox, turns 25 next month. He has never pitched above the Double-A level. Making the trip was an honor, he said. He was a non-roster invitee to spring training, his first big-league camp. Being around the major-league players, he said, was helpful.
Oh, a tremendous amount, he said. Just being around those guys, Wakefield and Jon Lester and Josh Beckett and Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon, he said. I got to chat with all of them at some point, and just to talk to them and ask them little things that might help me be successful. Im going to try to incorporate a little bit into my game this year and hopefully end up this year with them and win a championship with them.
With his build and delivery, Rice evokes memories of Tom Gordon. Mention this to Rice, and its sure to draw a smile. Gordon is his pitching idol.
I watched him a lot when he was with the Yankees and he set up for Mariano Rivera, and when he was with the Phillies, Rice said. He was hurt when he was Arizona a little bit. But I got to watch some film on him during spring training when he was with the White Sox, when he was a closer. I just wanted to see his curveball and his fastball and everything. I want to meet him one day if possible. But I do like to watch Flash Gordon throw the baseball.
Rice had 13 saves for Portland last season, finishing 44 games in his 48 appearances. He has not been told how hell be used this year, except out of the pen, and thats fine, he said.
Its not just the players who get pumped up for for Opening Day. Im really excited, said hitting coach Chili Davis before the game. Im as excited as these guys are. I went to bed last night thinking about it and I woke up this morning thinking about it.
This was Davis first season opener since 1999, when he was the Yankees designated hitter.
Davis had some words of optimism for those concerned about the Red Sox 0-6 start.
In 1991 the Twins started off 2-9, he said. We did all right that year.
Davis and the Twins won the World Series in 1991.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen